Ordered More Parts

Sherpa Equipment Co. awning mounting brackets

I was thinking about how I’m going to mount items to my Sherpa Equipment Company roof rack when it arrives (in a few months… ugh!), and I realized that the mounting hardware for my awning is made for round tubes. I needed to get an attaching mount for the Sherpa, so I went to their website and found accessories for the roof rack.


I also ended up purchasing two sets of “Smileys” which can be used to attach slings and straps to keep cargo tied down, and I also purchased two accessory boards with aid in attaching Rotopax and recovery boards (of which I have both).

Accessory boards. These will allow easy mounting of additional stuff.

The hilarious part is that the accessories will likely arrive far before the roof rack does. That’s okay; at least I’ll be completely ready to go to assemble my roof layout before putting it on my Gunship which will make it easier to try different layouts.

Overlanding isn’t cheap, but I’m adopting the mindset of, “Buy once, cry once.” Everything I’ve been buying so far has been high-quality and made to last, most of which have lifetime warranties. I can’t wait to start putting this stuff to good use!


Jacks, Jack Stands, and Lifting

Jack stands aren’t visible here due to lighting.

I went to Harbor Freight to purchase a jack and jack stand last night. Sure, I could have ordered on Amazon, and I could have bought some brand name stuff (which, in some cases, I absolutely prefer), but I’ve come to respect the higher-end tools and equipment Harbor Freight sells based on reviews, and personal experience.

I picked out a jack and jack stands based on features and price, and got them home. My son looked at the jack and jack stands and started smiling. “Umm, I don’t think these will work for your rig,” he said. I looked at the stuff I bought, and I looked over at my 4Runner, and I knew exactly what he was talking about. The jack stands were too short, and the jack would likely be unable to lift a tire off the ground lifting from the frame.

We tested the jack; sure enough, it didn’t lift high enough. I had to take the jack back and exchange it for the most expensive jack they had which lifted to 24”. When I got it home, we tested it, and sure enough, it can get the tires off the ground. I wanted to get a new jack stand, but they were all out. I’ll likely pick up a pair on Amazon. As for the jack stands I bought, my son kept them and paid me for them. He needed a set for his project car, and the set I bought are really nice and light-weight.

When purchasing jacks and jack stands for 4WD vehicles, you have to take into consideration not only the weight and lifting method (frame, jack point, etc), but also the height of your vehicle prior to lifting. You should make sure that the jack has enough lifting ability to get your vehicle off the ground enough to change a tire.

As for any jack operations, you should always use wheel chocks and jack stands. NEVER go under any vehicle without a jack stand. Hydraulic and mechanical jacks can fail with fatal consequences. Jack stands should be rated for the weight of the vehicle, at a minimum, and more is always better than less.


Today’s Motivation


I went out and took this photo today in an open field near my home. I took my fancy DSLR to get some really high-res photos, but the lens wasn’t cooperating. Either that, or the camera body isn’t recognizing aperture changes on the lens. Either way, I had to revert to using my iPhone 11 Pro, and while the DSLR takes better photos, these ended up really nice.


Apex Overland Recovery Points

My “Gunship” with Apex Overland Recovery Points mounted (visible at the sides of the TRD skid plate)

This afternoon, I finally had a chance to mount my Apex Overland recovery points onto my 2020 4Runner TRD Pro. The process was pretty simple once I figured out how to make the anti-sway bar fall way from the frame.

This is the first mod I actually purchased for my 4Runner back in December, three months before I took delivery of the Gunship. I knew I wanted them, as I plan on going off-road, and I knew that the factory tie-down points were not strong enough to safely recover the vehicle if necessary. These are a great option for those who don’t want to mount a full or partial steel bumper onto their vehicles. Since I don’t intend to put an aftermarket bumper on my 4Runner anytime soon, these will fit the bill nicely.

Mounting them was easy.

1. Place wheel chocks in front of and behind a wheel to keep the vehicle from rolling.
2. Loosen the bolts that hold the anti-sway bar mount in-place.
3. Jack up the vehicle, but only enough to allow there to be a 1/2” gap between the sway bar and the frame.
4. Remove the bolt from a bracket above the factory tie-down point.
5. Remove sticker over a threaded hole in the frame directly above the factory tie-down point.
6. Place the Apex Overland recovery point and thread in a bolt to hold it in place.
7. Thread all bolts in but do not tighten completely.
8. Lower vehicle and tighten all bolts.

Repeat for the opposite side (exactly the same process).

All in all, it’s a very easy mod, and one that can make the difference between a successful recovery and damaging your vehicle. More importantly, the chances of the recovery point coming away from the vehicle is far less than the chances of the factory tie-down coming off the frame which can result in serious bodily harm or death.


My Love for Overlanding Started Early

As a child, I had a subscription to National Geographic. I was a voracious reader from the time I was 5, and my parents subscribed to magazines and periodicals to sate my appetite for knowledge. Of all the things I read, nothing captured my attention more than Dr. Louis Leakey and his wife, Mary Leakey.

I was fascinated not only with their archeology and paleontology, but with their life in the field. The pictures of their camp showed Land Rovers, tents, tables, and a very austere lifestyle out in the wilds. I imagined myself out there with them, and when I played in the forest and fields around my home, I pretended to be Dr. Leakey, pulling a wagon behind my bicycle (which in my head was a Land Rover) filled with supplies like water, shovels, brushes, and a notepad to take notes with. The most I ever found was possible arrow heads and a few fossils, but I loved my time outdoors.

My grandparents would often take me camping which solidified my love of the outdoors and of camping. Each weekend spent with my grandparents was another adventure, and my grandparents, being as thrifty as anyone who lived through WWII and a revolution, always found incredibly fun things to do on a budget. Most of these things involved state or national parks, and almost always involved the outdoors.

Throughout my time in the Marines, I did spend time in the field, but not as often as someone assigned to the Division. I was an “Air Winger,” and only had to go on field exercises once or twice a year. While I was on active duty, however, I did take my kids camping as often as I could in the national parks around Southern California. We had a blast, and while I didn’t get a chance to go camping after leaving Southern California for nearly 20 years, my joining the National Guard in 2017 once again acquainted me with the outdoors.

Soon after enlisting in the Army National Guard, I went on my first field exercise. Going as a Field Artilleryman was a lot different than going to the field as a Marine Military Policeman in the Air Wing. We lived in little 1-man tents, and the field was literally a field. I setup my tent under a forested area, and there I lived for two weeks. It was hot, but it was glorious. I really enjoyed it. Over the next three years, we would go to the field 3-4 times a year, and each time, even when it was cold and rainy out, was fun.

Now, I’m getting back to camping and finally adding overlanding to the mix. Camping for fun will be different in some ways from being in the field in the military, but there’s so much overlap that I’m sure it’ll be as fun, if not more fun. Sure, I won’t be able to guide 155mm howitzers while overlanding, but I’ll be able to have bonfires and have a nip of scotch if I’d like.

It started as a child and continues 50 years later. I look forward to having grandchildren and introducing them to camping the same way my grandparents introduced it to me.


Ordered More Items for Gunship

The day I received Gunship, I ordered a trailer hitch receiver-mounted swing-out spare tire carrier from Detours of Maine. This device will attach a swing-out arm that holds a spare tire into the trailer hitch receiver. I’ve read reviews about it, and the unanimous consensus is that these are pretty solid and don’t make noise or wobble when mounted. The reason I ordered this is to get the spare tire out from under the vehicle to make changing a tire on the trail easier. I will have to have it powder coated when it arrives, but I plan on having it on Gunship shortly afterward. My wait is going to be about another 3-4 weeks, unfortunately, but well worth it.

To that end, I also ordered an extra TRD Pro wheel. It will arrive tomorrow, and I’ll go to Discount Tire and have a Nitto Grappler tire mounted to it (to match the 4 factory tires). That way, I can rotate the fifth tire among the other 4 to lengthen the duration I can run these tires by 1/5th.

Additionally, I ordered a new roof rack from Sherpa Equipment Co. in Ft. Collins, CO. Among all the roof racks, I recently learned about Sherpa, but I like their design the best. It is adjustable, and appears to be solid and well-made. All the reviews I’ve read were very positive, whereas reviews of my previous choice in roof racks has taken a hit due to quality of late. The last thing I need is to fight quality on an item I want to mount once and use often. The Sherpa is poised to fit that bill nicely, and I’m looking forward to receiving it in 3-6 weeks.

I will end this post with a funny. I decided to mount a shovel to my current factory roof rack, but I forgot that the right side of Gunship is reserved for the awning. I spent 30 minutes attaching the grips before I realized I just mounted them where the awning mounts. So I had to spend another 10 minutes removing them.


At least it looked good for a few minutes while it was on there.

I think I might paint the black parts of the shovel green.

Sharing the Hobby

One of the most rewarding aspects of Overlanding is that it’s a group hobby. In my case, my son is also interested in Overlanding, and he also has a 4Runner he plans on off-roading with.

On Monday, my son helped me install my rock sliders. I’m glad he did; I couldn’t have done it without him. The sliders are heavy, and requires two people to lift into place. Additionally, he’s adept at working on cars, and his help enabled us to get the sliders mounted quickly.

I have a group of friends I met over a decade ago when we were all into VW’s. Now, all of us have moved on to Overlanding, and we will be making trips out West to go off-roading and to go camping together.


The Modding Has Begun

With my new 4Runner comes the many modifications that I will be adding to make this vehicle suit my needs and my personality. Some are cosmetic, but most are functional.

The first modification was LED lights. I swapped out the headlights, daytime running lights/high beams, and interior lights. The 4Runner comes with incandescent light bulbs and halogen headlights. These all have a yellow cast to them, and in the case of the headlights, are notoriously weak. My new bulbs are all much brighter, but not so bright that it blinds me or anyone outside the car. This was important, especially in the case of my headlights. I don’t want to be a nuisance or a safety hazard to anyone coming towards me in the opposite lane.

The second modification was the old TRD badge on the grill. It’s a splash of color on an otherwise all green and black vehicle, and I think it looks really nice there as well as being a throw-back to the old Toyota Racing Development days.

The third modification was mounting Rago storage panels inside the cargo area of the 4Runner. This process was very easy, and has added some much-needed storage capability for things like my first aid kits, an axe, a machete, and other items.

As I plan on taking this vehicle off-road with my son in his 4Runner, I added a bow shackle mount to the trailer hitch receiver to enable me to pull him or anyone else out of trouble if necessary.

Modification number 5 was the addition of an awning on the right side of the cargo rack on the roof. This will allow us to have shade or protection from the rain while out and about. As an added bonus, when I go flying my RC airplanes, it will give me a shaded area under which to store my planes while I’m flying.

The sixth modification was adding rock sliders to the vehicle (as can be seen on the grass in the previous picture prior to their mounting). Rock sliders differ from steps in that they are designed to protect the vehicle from rocks on a trail. Steps are not structurally strong enough to protect the vehicle; rock sliders are. They can support the weight of the vehicle and will keep the 4Runner from being impaled onto a rock from the side. They double as steps, however, and will be useful for Sherry to get in and out of the vehicle more easily.

This is how the 4Runner looks today. I had to remove the awning at the parking garage at work today, however, as the total height of the vehicle exceeded the safe clearance height in the garage. Fortunately, I had the forethought to bring the keys to unlock the awning’s mounts from the roof rack, and I was able to store the awning inside the cargo area of the vehicle until I get home. I’ll put the awning in the garage and put it on the 4Runner only when I will be needing it. It’s too bad. I rather liked having it up there.


Welcome, Gunship

Meet Gunship. Gunny, for short. Gunship is my new 2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro in Army Green. Gunship was made at the Toyota factory in Aichi, Japan, and arrived in the US on February 6th. Gunship spent a long time at sea to get here, and now, it’s getting additions to make it even more overlanding capable.

My plans or this 4Runner are many. Rock sliders, internal storage improvements, recovery points in the front, a winch, LED headlights, LED internal lights, Ham and GMRS radio, and more.

I can now start documenting the changes, the updates, and the adventures we’ll be having. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you, and I’ll be launching my video series on YouTube shortly. I hope you’ll follow me and subscribe there for my experiences with this 4Runner and overlanding.


Adventures are coming

My wife and I on vacation with a rental vehicle in New England in 2019.

2020 will be the year of more adventures for us. My wife and I enjoy taking weekend trips and vacations, but in the past, they’ve involved mostly hotels, classic bed and breakfasts, and Air BnB’s. Soon, when the 2020 4Runner TRD Pro arrives, we’ll be adding camping to the list.

My wife and I had a discussion the other night about my motivations for overlanding, as she was concerned we were going to leave behind the world of comfort in hotels, B&B’s, and Air BnB. I told her that nothing could be further from the truth, but that I wanted to add another dimension or element to our adventures. I wanted to open up more parts of our amazing country to our trips. Mountain biking or trail biking, hikes in remote areas, and visiting and exploring outdoor areas that would otherwise be inconvenient to travel to without camping on-site.

Overlanding, to me, isn’t just about camping. It’s about adventure. It’s about freedom. It’s about having options to choose where you will spend the night without limitations. Want to spend the night in a hotel? Go ahead. No hotels around but want to ride on the trails in the morning at first light? Camp in the park (if it’s legal/allowed). Want to visit that small town with the cute Bed and Breakfast? Do it! Having an overlanding vehicle doesn’t mean I need to camp everywhere I go. It just means I’m more ready for anything than I was before.

Side note: I was told yesterday by my dealer that my 4Runner is again delayed until February 12th through the 17th. Sometime within that window, I should finally receive delivery of my 2020 4Runner TRD Pro in Army Green. By that time, it will have been a five month wait since I put a deposit down on this vehicle. I’m very anxious to finally take receipt of this vehicle and start working on all the mods and add-ons I have already purchased in anticipation of this project.